The author’s suggestion in a New Yorker essay this week that bird populations would thrive if we gave up the fight on climate change is ‘nonsense’ say conservationists
Wednesday 1 April 2015 15.29 BSTLast modified on Wednesday 1 April 201515.42 BST
In Jonathan Franzen’s 2010 novel Freedom, lauded for its biting critique of the US environmental movement, a conservationist enters a Faustian pact with a coal miner. He cuts a deal in which a community of 200 families are to be relocated and a mountain denuded in return for the creation of a sanctuary for warblers.
In this week’s New Yorker, Franzen flirts with his own protagonist’s folly by proposing to protect birds by giving up on the fight to slow down climate change. A suggestion that has angered and confused bird conservationists across the world.
Franzen begins his essay with an expression of deep and admirable love for birds, for which he has been a long-time advocate. He “cares more about birds than the next man”, he says. His typically brilliant opening double entendre works as an ode to birds, but also reveals an apathy for his fellow humans. They are beyond help from climate change and thus beyond caring about it. Birds on the other hand have a future. It’s a modern, nihilistic rendition of Byron’s declaration: “I love not man the less, but Nature more.”